“Open door” to better fiscal deal for Catalonia
The Spanish government will offer a better fiscal arrangement for Catalonia but will refuse to authorise a referendum on independence. The Spanish parties are going to reject the Catalan government petition for a consultation during a debate on the 8th of April in the Spanish Congress. But the conservative PP will try to engage in conversations with the Catalan government about a new fiscal pact, hoping this offer could stop the “crazy environment” of tensions between Catalonia and Spain, PP sources confirmed to the CNA. The Catalan Government spokesman, Francesc Homs, said the referendum “cannot be swapped” for money and urged the Spanish government to put any offer to a ballot box test.
Barcelona (ACN).- The Spanish government will leave an “open door” to a better fiscal deal for Catalonia during the debate in the Spanish Congress about the Catalan government petition to hold a referendum on independence. This is according to sources from the conservative PP party, in Government in Madrid. Those sources say that the offer would aim to put to an end the “crazy environment” between Catalonia and Spain and regain trust between the PP and the CiU, the party in Government in Catalonia. The Spanish Government, however, will categorically reject the Catalan Parliament petition to hold a referendum or a non-binding consultation about independence, saying this is unconstitutional.
The Catalan Government spokesman and Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, warned the Spanish Government that any fiscal offer would not dissuade Catalans from their plans to vote in a referendum. “If they want to persuade the people of Catalonia, they should put forward their proposals and be willing to test them in the ballot box”, said Homs in a radio interview.
Homs argued that the referendum or consultation “cannot be swapped” for any better fiscal arrangement agreed “behind closed doors”. According to him, it is “absurd” to think that Catalan civil society will settle for anything short of a vote. He said that the Catalan Government is happy to listen to any offer but that the final decision should be taken by the Catalan people. “We must vote”, he declared.
If a formal proposal is put forward, the Catalan government could include the option in the referendum, thus asking citizens if they want full independence or a new deal with Spain. In fact, the proposed question for the 9th of November referendum has two parts: do Catalans want Catalonia to be a state and, if so, do they want that state to be independent from Spain. With this wording, many argue, there would be the option to vote for a new fiscal or political arrangement within the Spanish framework, as well as full independence.
However, the PP government and the Socialists both reject the possibility of a referendum or consultation. Despite the fact that a recent ruling by the Constitutional Court said that the “right to decide” –a wording used in Catalonia to refer to a non-binding consultation- could fit within the Constitution, it seems unlikely that Madrid will allow such a vote.
Catalonia would like Madrid to accept a non-binding consultation that could allow Catalans to express their opinion about the future of the country. The result, if showing a desire for independence, could serve then as a starting point for negotiations with Spain over a constitutional change that might allow Catalonia to break-away or to stay in a more federal system.
This, however, seems unlikely, considering that the Spanish Government refuses to contemplate the possibility of a vote and will try to persuade Catalonia to accept a better deal in the framework of current fiscal negotiations, albeit one that would still be less ambitious than the one currently enjoyed by the Basque Country.
It is also unlikely that the Catalan Government, led by President Artur Mas, could now accept a new fiscal arrangement and refuse to hold a referendum with the option of independence on the ballot paper. CiU supported a new fiscal pact until September 2012, when the Spanish President Mariano Rajoy rejected the call for fiscal negotiations. Catalan people took massively to the streets to call for full independence, and Mas was forced to call an early election in which the parties calling for a referendum gained a comfortable majority.